Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Spit take

So, Coco and I did one of those spit-in-the-tube DNA deals, mostly at her urging, because she has gotten more than a little hooked on doing her genealogy right now. After mailing the packets back and not a very long wait, we just got the results. Here's my little map:


No surprises here.

My genome presents 51% East Europe, pegged down to Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland & Lithuania, I presume based on some specific markers. Since my pop's family was Polish, this is all pretty straightforward.

The report also shows 38% Southern Italy, based on markers from South Europe, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. My mother's family was from Naples, so this makes sense. The family name on my Italian side means "The Greek", so I always imagined my remote antecedents originally came from east of Italy, and the indicators from Eurasia support this bit of personal mythologizing.

In any event, my "Ethnicity Estimate" matches to 89% what I have said since I was a kid in the schoolyard: I am of Polish and Italian descent.

There are some not-totally-unexpected traces of other Mediterranean chromosomes in there (appearing at what they call "low confidence" levels): Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, West Europe, and a little European Jewish. Nothing to make me question any family history. The only two ringers are some low confidence results for Great Britain and the Indian subcontinent: I never knew I had any connection to the British Empire, let alone a genetic one. Who knows what those results actually mean.

There we have it. And what of it?

Nothing much, really. I have always contended that my genetic make up meant little to me, that the person I am was based on the people who cared for me as I grew up (whether I was technically related to them or not), the experiences I had, and the choices I made as a result. This test didn't change that position, and if the results had been widely different from what I expected, I imagine I would have felt mild curiosity at the misalignment, but no change in my identity.

Having grown up with first-generation American parents who had totally bought into the assimilation model of immigration, exploring heritage for its own sake was never seen as being of much value. I also recognize that being white in American culture meant the specifics of my ethnicity as I was growing up did not loom as large they otherwise might have. In any case, I have never developed the habit of caring much about my heritage beyond my family of origin.

Other than the new (and horrifying) potential of someone creating a Walaka-clone, this exercise was pretty much a fun diversion, and not much more. We'll see what Coco says, though.

Monday, January 1, 2018

First failure of the new year

So, this actually happened last night, but I am counting it for 2018 anyway.


This artifact from 1928 appeared in my Twitter feed (and in a most annoying feature of Twitter disappeared so I could not find it again). I thought it would be fun to actually assemble it, so I printed it off on card stock, cut all the pieces out carefully, inserted thumbtacks in all the appropriate places, and secured them with bluetack. Here's the result:


As you can see, no amount of tugging on the scythe handle can get Father Time to open the box so Baby New Year pops out. Looking at it, it seems that the geometry is all wrong - that there's no way to make the angles work out - but I can't shake the feeling that I did something incorrectly. It's hard to imagine what, since there are only four joints and they are all clearly labeled, but the end result is that the little device doesn't perform as advertised.

And you know what? That doesn't matter.

Because it was fun to cut out the pieces. It had been a long time since I had cut anything out, and I could almost feel my tongue wanting to slip out the corner of my mouth the way it would do when I was a little kid concentrating on a task. It was fun to build the model, digging out thumbtacks to use instead of the specified pins, and finding blue tack - still good from my ESL teaching days in the 1990s! - to hold the joints secure. It was even fun to try to puzzle out why it didn't work, and to make the video documenting the failure.

And that's the feeling I am going to try to keep during 2018: it doesn't really matter if my drawings live up to my expectations, or what kinds of sounds I can coax from my ukulele, or if any thing I create succeeds or fails according to some external standard. All that matters is engagement with the creative process, a little satisfaction of completion, and having some fun. If I do that enough, eventually there'll be hits among the misses.

But seriously, I don't think this little New Year's geegaw will ever work.